Have you ever bought something new but wished it looked antique? You can’t buy character, but you can fake it with an antique paint finish. We’ll show you how to antique wood and make it look distressed by using paint and stain.
The trick to making wood look weathered is to not overdo it. Some people like an overly distressed look, but it won’t look natural.
This tutorial will teach you how to distress wood and add a subtle charm. The painting technique can be applied to wood, laminate, or any furniture you want to look aged.
Gather Your Supplies
To distress wood, you’ll need:
- Sanding blocks, 150-grit and 220-grit
- Walnut oil, gel stain, or brown paint
- Matte paint, chalk paint, or milk paint
- A clean rag
Remove Hardware and Tape Off Areas
The first thing you’ll need to do is remove all hardware and tape off any areas that you don’t want to paint. Take your time and carefully clean the item of any dust or grime. Also, make sure that the furniture is completely dry before you go onto the next step.
Sand the Existing Finish
For this aged wood technique, lightly sand the entire surface using a 150-grit sanding block. If you are okay with the original color showing through, then don’t sand too harshly on the main surface areas. You just want to sand it enough to remove any sheen to help the paint stick.
Next, completely remove the existing painted finish or stain in areas that would be prone to heavier wear, like the edges and high points. For this, you want to get to the raw surface of the wood so that your darker stain will penetrate this area. You can use the same sanding block or use a power sander to make the process a bit faster.
- Strip the furniture to a wood base if there are multiple layers of caked on paint that you don’t want to show through the new color.
Fill Crevices With a Dark Finish
We opted to use Walnut Oil for this part of the process. However, you can use any type of wood stain or dark paint for similar results.
Once sanding is complete, take the darker finish of your choosing to fill in the edges. If you are using paint, thin it down a bit with some water. The best way to apply this darker brown color is with a clean rag. Soak the stain into low spots, as well as the worn down places you sanded to darken the base layer. Wipe away any excess.
Don’t worry if the brown is on the white paint as well. The next layer of paint will cover this.
Paint on the Main Color
Next, coat the entire piece of furniture with a thin layer of your main color. The thinner the layer, the easier the next steps will be.
We opted to use a matte-finish paint, which works well when you don’t want to use a primer. Chalk paint or milk paint provide a similar sheen but may need to be sealed with a wax finish.
Remember, the lighter the hand, the better this antiquing will turn out. Thick coats of paint are going to be harder to sand and get the look you want.
When finished, let the first coat dry completely before proceeding to the next step. We recommend waiting at least 24 hours between coats.
Add a Second Coat and Allow to Dry Completely
This second coat will ensure that all the excess brown stain has been thoroughly covered and isn’t bleeding through. Adding a second coat is going to make your end result look more natural. Also, if you are working with a piece of unpainted wood furniture, you may opt to use a different color for your second coat to have more layers when you start distressing.
Allow to dry completely.
Sand Down the Edges and Buff in a Dark Finish
This next step is where the magic happens. Start slow and take a step back every so often to see how the distressing is coming along.
Using a 150-grit sanding block, buff down the edges so that the dark raw wood starts to peak through.
Next, take a 220-grit sanding block and very lightly start sanding a little bit deeper in to remove just the top layer of your main paint color near the edges. This step is going to reveal the original finish, which in this case is white.
Finally, take some more of your dark stain on a rag and buff it into the edges, and immediately wipe it away. To make the paint look aged and more rustic, take some of that dark stain and lightly buff it into the matte paint throughout the entire piece while wiping away the excess.
Add Nicks and Scratches to Further Age the Piece
The final step is to take a 220-grit sanding block and very lightly sand the entire piece. You can also use a butter knife or other tool to scrape some pieces of the wood to add more character. We opted to remove a couple nicks on the corner of the drawers for a natural aged look.